The UCSB Shoreline Preservation Fund (SPF), a student-funded coastal conservancy group, is helping Santa Barbara County pay for the construction of special trash-collecting storm drains in Isla Vista.

On Nov. 6, the Santa Barbara County Public Works Dept. received an $80,000 grant from the SPF for three new continuous deflective separation (CDS) units, which are specially designed to strain solid trash from runoff water before it flows into the ocean. Each unit can hold 900 gallons of waste before needing to be emptied, said Cathleen Garnand, a civil engineer with Project Clean Water, which is a countywide creek and ocean water quality improvement program.

The new storm drain units – which complement an existing unit that was installed in January 2003 at the corner of El Embarcadero and Del Playa Drive – will be installed at the intersections of DP and Camino Pescadero; DP and Camino del Sur; and on DP between Camino del Sur and Camino Corto.

Garnand said the storm drains use a gravity-based straining system to stop and collect items as small as cigarette butts.

“In Isla Vista, there’s no high nutrient levels from agricultural runoff, no industry, but there are a lot of people that generate trash,” Garnand said.

The city of Santa Barbara also has several CDS units downtown. Garnand said that one such unit on Haley Street is emptied of its collected waste every month.

She said the existing unit in Isla Vista has yet to be emptied but is due for cleaning next week. When the trash is sucked out, the county will be able to gauge its effectiveness, she said. Typically, the units should be cleaned two to three times per year, but Garnand said it is good to clean them often to avoid the decomposition of trash within the holding tanks.

Garnand said the grant money from SPF will supplement the $350,000 to $450,000 that construction of the three new drains is expected to cost, although the total cost of the project is actually higher because of planning and design. The rest of the money the county is spending on the project comes from a $2.1 million California Coastal Conservancy grant previously awarded to the county.

The drain installed in Isla Vista last year cost just over $100,000 to build, and each new unit is expected to cost around $2,000 to maintain annually, Garnand said.

“It’s very pricey,” Garnand said. “We’ve been contracting out the waste collection before we develop the ability to maintain them in-house. We want to learn from their experience.”

Garnand said the county contracts out to the same company that services hundreds of these types of storm drains in the Los Angeles area for Caltrans.

The Public Works Dept. is opening the bid process for project construction next week. The process will take about two months before a contractor is selected and construction can begin.

“We’re hoping, weather permitting, to start construction by this Christmas,” Garnand said. “The holidays are a better time to do it in terms of traffic. Once construction begins, it should only take a matter of weeks before completion.”

The CDS units are designed and manufactured by an Australian company, CDS Technologies, which has 10 U.S. offices in the country.

According to the company’s website, “the major markets for CDS products are in rich, highly developed countries, where people will no longer tolerate the consequences of uncontrolled discharges into the environment.”

SPF began in 1999 and is funded through a $3 per student per quarter lock-in fee. According to the group’s website, the fund allocated $558,000 to 123 local projects through 2002 for coastal preservation efforts.